Council learns clean-up cost for State School property could run as high as $3.5 million

LACONIA — As the City Council considers whether to renew its bid to acquire the former Laconia State School property, it learned last night that cost of overcoming the environmental issues on the property could range between $2-million and $3.5-million.
Initially the city offered to purchase the 200-acre site for $2.16-million, the value determined by an appraisal performed by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, but withdrew the bid when the site was placed on the open market. When no buyers stepped forward, Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2) suggested that the council resubmit its offer. However, before making a decision, councilors sought an estimate of the cost of removing contaminants from the site, most of which are in or around the 26 buildings on the property.
Rip Patten of Credere Associates, the firm that conducted an initial environmental assessment of the site, told the councilors that he extrapolated from the estimate of removing contaminants, including asbestos, lead paint and PCBs, from one of the buildings — the Blood Building — prepared by Nobis Engineering to reach his estimate. "It is a reasonable range," he said. "It could be lower or it could be higher."
Patten suggested that grants from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Capital Region Development Corporation of Concord could defray between $800,000 and $1.3 million of the cost. In addition, he said that low interest loans and tax credit programs were also available. The process of securing the maximum amount of funding for the project, he indicated would take two or three years and could not begin until the city owned the property.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) said that the next step would be to project the return to the city for an investment of between $4 million and $5 million to acquire the property and prepare it for redevelopment.
Lahey suggested that while renewing its bid, the city should also offer to purchase portions of the site, especially the some 60-acres, known as Risley Field, adjacent to the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, which the city currently leases year-to-year from the state. However, he acknowledged that in the past state officials have not welcomed what one senator called "cherry picking" but insisted on "all or nothing."